Guv orders work on CBRT stopped

Cebu Governor Gwendo­lyn Garcia.
Cebu Governor Gwendo­lyn Garcia. File photo

GOVERNOR Gwendolyn Garcia has told the contractor of the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (CBRT) to cease all civil works within Capitol-owned lots due to the alleged lack of a documentary permit.

In a now-deleted post on the Provincial Government’s social media arm on Tuesday night, February 27, 2024, Garcia issued Memorandum 16-2024 ordering Hunan Road and Bridge Construction Group Ltd. to immediately stop the construction of the bus station in front of the Capitol building along Osmeña Blvd. in Cebu City.

SunStar Cebu was able to get a screenshot of the memorandum from the now-deleted post.

In the memorandum, Garcia said the Capitol discovered that the project’s proponents lacked the necessary authorization from the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) for the construction of the bus stations along Osmeña Blvd.

On Tuesday, Jose Eleazar Bersales of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) Advisory Board informed the governor about the potential violation of the project against the Philippine Heritage Law.

The project “appears to be located” within the buffer zones of the Capitol Building and the Fuente Osmeña Rotunda, both of which could easily qualify as heritage zones, according to the memorandum.

Bersales is the Capitol consultant on museums and heritage.

Garcia tasked the Philippine National Police to monitor the strict implementation of her memorandum.


She said the project violates the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009, or Republic Act (RA) 10066, as the contractor has not secured the necessary authorization from the NHCP.

RA 10066 mandates the protection of structures and edifices older than 50 years, and any construction within designated buffer zones requires the authorization of the NHCP, she said.

The Capitol building was declared a National Historical Landmark and has a Grade 1 Level Heritage Structure Classification.

Garcia said this entails a stricter implementation of RA 10066.

Completed in 1938, the edifice features neoclassical and art deco style, with similarities to the US Capitol building.

SunStar Cebu reached out to Norvin Imbong, the CBRT’s project manager, on Wednesday, February 28, for comment, but to no avail.

In February 2023, Garcia told CBRT proponents that the project would traverse some lots owned by the Province and sought “just compensation” from the Department of Transportation (DOTr).

Each bus station occupies an area of 160 square meters, with drainage systems on both sides of the sidewalk.

The bus station along Osmeña Blvd. is part of Package 1 of the project, which stretches from the Cebu South Bus Terminal on N. Bacalso Ave. to the front of the Capitol building.

The entire CBRT project will start in Barangay Bulacao and in the South Road Properties in the south and run through Barangay Talamban in the north. It has a total project cost of around P28.78 billion.

In a privilege speech during the regular session of the Cebu City Council on Wednesday, Feb. 28, Vice Mayor Raymond Alvin Garcia requested the Office of the Building Official to issue a cease-and-desist order against the CBRT contractor.

He said it should come up with a better design for the stations that can be submitted and proposed to the appropriate bodies, including but not limited to the NCCA, Cultural and Historical Affairs Commission (Chac) and the council.

He also urged Chac to collaborate with counterparts in Cebu Province to explore alternative designs, ensuring that these are more complementary and in conformity with existing laws and policies.

In his speech, the vice mayor said the infrastructure being introduced within the historical and cultural vista corridor is part of a project intended to benefit constituents in Cebu City.

However, he argued that it poses a significant threat to the integrity of the city’s shared identity, heritage and culture as the people of Cebu.

“One cannot be allowed to cancel the other, especially if the proposed design did not even pass through both the Cultural and Historical Affairs Commission and the Sangguniang Panlungsod,” he said.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. led the groundbreaking of the CBRT at the Fuente Osmeña Circle on Feb. 27, 2023, where he announced that it was one of the National Government’s flagship infrastructure projects.

The Department of Transportation is the lead implementing agency.

Both the governor and the vice mayor did not provide an explanation on why they waited one year to voice their objection to the design and placement of the CBRT bus stations. (EHP/AML)


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